Amarinder Singh's anti-Sikh riots remarks over Jagdish Tytler spark row with BJP's Arun Jaitley

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 21 2014, 23:38pm hrs
Arun Jaitley and Amarinder Singh, locked in an intense battle for Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, were today engaged in a fresh war of words, this time on the 1984 riots, with the BJP questioning the "clean chit" to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler.

Attacking Singh for his reported defence of Tytler, Jaitley questioned whether the former Punjab Chief Minister is "trying to prejudge the guilt of a person who is perceived to be involved in the riots"

"Is his personal and political relationship more important to Amarinder Singh than the interest of the victims" He asked.

Jaitley's remarks came after Amarinder Singh told a news channel that while other Congress leaders may be linked to the riots, Tytler played no role the violence.

"I'm not the CBI, I'm not the court. I'm telling you what I saw and felt....I was in Delhi, I went to all the camps.. and everyone I met took all these names that I have told you except Jagdish Tytler. When did Jagdish Tytler's name come up It came up when he was fighting Madan Lal Khurana in Delhi, that was months later," he had said.

But Amarinder Singh today clarified that he had not given a clean chit to Tytler. He said while he had heard the names of other Congress leaders including H K L Bhagat, Lalit Maken and Sajjan Kumar, but not Tytler's from the riot victims living in relief camps.

Amarinder Singh said he had only stated what he had heard from the people immediately after the riots broke out in New Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

"It is not for the first time I have said so. I have been saying it for the past 30 years, but why is it now that Akalis and BJP have woken up and decided to protest" he asked while adding, "for the obvious reasons they want to polarise people for petty political reasons as they are badly losing across Punjab, Amritsar in particular".

Amarinder Singh said the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 were the most tragic and gruesome and those responsible should be given exemplary punishment.

"I, along with my brother and a cousin, besides a friend was the first person to reach out to the riot victims and I toured all the areas...and went to all the Gurdwaras in Delhi where they had taken shelter between November 1 and 4, 1984 and nowhere was Tytler's name mentioned," Amarinder Singh said.

He said it was for the courts and CBI to decide on the case.

Training his gun at Congress, Jaitley today alleged that those guilty for the "state sponsored" violence still remain unpunished.

Describing the "massacre" of innocent Sikhs after the Indira Gandhi as a "black spot" in democracy, the BJP leader, wrote in his blog, "The fact that the innocents can be killed in thousands is terrible. What is worse is that the guilty went unpunished".

He later said the defence of the guilty by Amarinder Singh is "another blot" on the country".

Akali Dal today staged a protest outside Congress headquarters here against Amarinder Singh's remarks on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

Scores of Akali activists reached the Congress office at 24, Akbar Road, holding placards and raised anti-Congress slogans and clashed with police, which had erected barricades to stop them.

As the protesters refused to budge, police resorted to use of water cannon to disperse them.

Referring to the protests staged by the Akali and BJP workers, Amarinder Singh said, it showed their frustration as they are not able to generate any momentum in Punjab. Their rallies in Amritsar are failing and getting cancelled and now they are trying to resort to emotive issues.

"They have always opened the old wounds of people for their petty partisan interests and they are doing the same now," he said, adding that "my naming or not naming someone is immaterial as the matter is under investigation and will be decided by the courts".

Meanwhile, All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) and radical Damdami Taksal urged the Election Commission to direct political parties not to exploit the issue of 1984 riots for political mileage.

Punjab's key political outfits SAD, BJP and Congress should not exploit the issue of the 1984 riots during their campaigning, AISSF head Karnail Singh Peer Mohammed and Damdami Taksal chief Mokham Singh said at Moga.